As an arranger, William Henderson writes dandy string backgrounds for jazzmen like Horace Silver and David Benoit. As a songwriter, he's got a ways to go.
Henderson's 13-tune set Sunday at At My Place, featuring a 10-piece band with guest vocalists, was long on shine and short on emotional or musical content. Too many of the selections came off with a Las Vegas glitziness, and not enough with plain old soul. As there was good talent on hand, things could have been turned around.
Still, there were high points. Singer Bill Henderson (no relation), whose resonant warble is always refreshing, did an admirable job with a ballad, "This Ol' Love of Mine," and "My Heart Belongs to You," which alternated between a slow, rousing stomper and a brisk, uptempo jazz tune. These snappy renditions were apparently unrehearsed, for Henderson read the lyrics off sheets of music, with his back to half of the house during "Heart."
Singers Don and Alicia Cunningham--singing solo, as a duet, in a trio with Dini Clarke and a quartet with Clarke and Henderson--delivered quality performances, too, but much of the material was innocuous. "Charlie Splits" was fun, though, as Don Cunningham offered a tongue-defying scat solo at an outrageously speedy tempo. The crowd loved this--as it did the rest of the show.